Thursday, April 28, 2011

Found Abandoned

Found Abandoned.

Two words and yet practically everything we know about our daughter's past.  Not found abandoned with instructions attached.  Not found abandoned with a letter describing life conditions too harsh to raise a child.  Not found abandoned with a letter stating how much he or she really loved this child yet was unable to provide for her.  Not found abandoned with a piece DNA material attached to help us locate any family member that may be living.  The only information we have about our daughter's past are those two words, along with a police statement, a few statements from witnesses, and the location of her abandonment.  On a hopeful note, the location of Sassy's abandonment suggests that the person 'dropping her off' knew what they were doing and wanted her to be adopted.  

Left to my imagination, coupled with life conditions we witnessed when traveling and what I have come to learn about our daughter's personality, I suspect that someone loved her very much. Sassy's ability to give and receive love demonstrate either a strong attachment to a previous caregiver or a fierce resilience and determined spirit.  I suspect there was either a death in the family or life conditions that warranted making the most difficult decision of one's lifetime.  I suspect someone is still out there wondering if Sassy made it home and I wish I could just pick up the phone and let him or her know she has arrived, is thriving, and that all is well...except that huge gaping hole.  Who are you?  Where are you?  Does she have sisters or brothers?  Why didn't you just go into the police station?  Why didn't you provide more information? 

Years from now when Sassy starts asking questions, I hope my answers and the love of our family are enough to make her feel secure and confident; although I know they will not be sufficient.  Nothing our family can give her will ever fill that gaping hole.  An information hole and probably a hole in her heart.  Thankfully, our God is bigger than any life circumstance.  He can fill any hole, heal any hurt, and provide a peace of mind that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  

When the time comes to discuss her past, I am confident God will provide the right words and give our family direction.  He always does.  At this point in time, I do not know what that will look like, but I trust that it will happen when the time is right.  Day by day, month by month, year by year, as we shower Sassy with our love, teach her about our faith in Christ, and  parent all of our children to the best of our abilities, we pray that God is working from within.  That He is behind the scenes, building the foundation, and instilling faith and confidence.  Our God is the God of all things seen and all things unseen.  Although the trials of this life may never make sense to me while walking the earth, I earnestly believe Romans 8:28 when it says God causes everything to work together for the good of those who Him and are called according to His purpose for them.  

In my opinion, Isaiah (who prophesied approximately 720-780 years before the birth of Christ), has some of the most beautiful, poetic, and profound statements in the entire Bible.  I will close this post with Isaiah 40:28-31.  A message of power, hope, confidence, and faith.  The passage states, "Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." 

Oh, and let us not forget...God has found each and every one of us abandoned.  So, while we may not have a police report documenting the conditions surrounding our abandonment, our hearts each have their own story.  Found abandoned has nothing on our living God!  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Artificial Flavor: What is That Stuff, Anyway?!

With Easter just around the corner, my mind once again circles back to a question I have asked (silently) for years, but never took the time to look for an answer.  Artificial flavor is an ingredient listed on countless products in regular grocery stores.  Seems innocent enough...this or that product contains natural and artificial flavor.  But what does that really mean?  

The first thing I found out about artificial flavoring is that is has a lot to do with the sense of smell.  While food can only taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or savory the number of ways a particular food may smell is countless.  Therefore, by altering the smell (chemically), you essentially alter how the food tastes.  So, according to various scientific references on Wikipedia, the term flavoring actually denotes the combined chemical sensations of taste and smell.  Great, I thought my mouth was just in danger...but come to find out the chemical masterminds are after my nose too.  

But what are the actual chemicals?  How dangerous are they?  Here is the kicker: the FDA does not require that flavor companies (what on earth is a flavor company?) disclose ingredients as long as all of the ingredients are "generally regarded as safe".  Therefore, these companies can protect their secret toxic potions and $1.5 billion annual profit while quite possibly harming all of us and our environment.  

I do about 90% of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  While my mother-in-law jokingly calls it  "whole paycheck" I shop there for a reason.  All of their ingredients are natural, many are organic, and you will never find questionable additives or preservatives in their stores.  The average Joe and Jane can read AND understand the ingredients listed on the labels.  In addition, they are committed to sustainable food sources, protecting the environment, and supporting local farming operations.  I once had our local store manager explain to me the difference between a modified starch (safe) and a genetically modified food (questionable).  Furthermore, I find that my grocery bills are about the same regardless of where I shop.  By sticking to the basics (or shopping the perimeter of the grocery store), eating healthy does not need to break the bank.  

Like all parents, I want my children to grow up strong and healthy and I really do not believe that larger food chains have our best interest at stake.  In the year 1980, the world's population was approximately 4.5 Billion.  Today, it is approximately 7 Billion.   What do you think the big players in the food industry have done to keep up with the demand for food while not cutting into their profits?  That's right: chemically altered and artificially flavored food-like substances.  After all, the natural flavoring is just too expensive and hard to find according to the 'flavorists' know, those guys and gals who make a living from producing chemically-altered flavors at the flavor company.    

So, just when you thought reading food labels could not get any more difficult, think again.  The simple ingredient, artificial flavor, may not be so simple after all.  Crude oil and coal tar could very well be lumped with your (and my) morning coffee creamer and cute little chocolate-flavored Easter bunnies.  

My mom always used to say, "You ate such and such when you were a kid and you turned out just fine." (No comments, please.)  My response would always be that chicken used to be chicken and sugar used to be sugar.  Now, nearly everything is modified or altered.  While it is becoming harder to decipher what is good vs what is bad, it is not impossible.

When you are out shopping for your Easter treats, go ahead, flip the label over and take notice to just how many ingredients you are familiar with.  The basic ingredients in chocolate are: cocoa beans, sugar, milk, cocoa butter, lecithin, and vanilla.  I have a hunch you will be pressed to find any of those listed in the mass produced goodies.  

Now, on to my next pressing question.  An Easter bunny?  How to explain this one to our Ethiopian-American son?!?!  

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Honeymoon is O-V-E-R

There are honeymoon periods for many relationships: dating, new jobs, promotions, attempting to maintain a garden, marriage, birth of a new child, and yes, the homecoming of adopted children.  

Because young children cannot hide, hinder, or temper their emotions to the same extent as older children and adults, I believe the 'honey' of the honeymoon period for our family mainly affected mom, dad, and Sporty.  While mom, dad, and Sporty were on their best (or best as could be expected on little to no sleep) behavior, Larry stepped up to the plate in ways I never thought possible for a four year old (even giving himself the title 'oldest kid in the house while Sporty is at school') and Moe and Sassy were literally battling it out daily for the position of baby of the family.  

Fast forward eight weeks and our family now has a new look and feel.  Larry, Moe, and Sassy have assumed their new family positions.  Any struggle that they went through seems to have produced healthy sibling relations.  Sporty has begun to come out of his shell and show us his true self.  We have had several communication breakthroughs where I felt (at that point in time) we had made it to a new level in understanding each other.  He is also more willing to discuss his likes and dislikes openly, which is great!  However, it has also become apparent that (most likely due to the fact that he was one of the oldest kids in the transition home) he is not used to following strict rules, and instead acts as if they are only suggestions.  Our best guess is that he was being taught to be a man and make decisions for himself in Ethiopia and now, all of the sudden, that autonomy (to some degree) is being placed on a shelf and he is assuming the role of an eleven year old Ethiopian-American boy.  Big difference!  Therefore, I always try to assess each situation from his viewpoint before making any decisions on how proceed.  

We have had several occasions when, GASP, Sporty has decided to act like eleven year olds everywhere and do what he 'feels like doing' regardless of the rule.  That, of course, was met with our strict adherence to the rule policy which was subsequently met with his pout and stomp off to his room act.  Occasions likely to spur the aforementioned scenario are: vegetables at dinnertime (yes, they are on your plate for a reason), riding your bike on the neighbors lawn (because even though I realize some Americans are over-the-top about preserving their lawn by polluting the environment, we have the responsibility to teach you rules and boundaries), wearing a jacket to school (we now use a thermostat with an image of proper attire for the day to enforce the rule), and us insisting that he not throw chalk (or whatever object happens to be in his hand) at his brother's head (there is really nothing else to say about this one).  

I admit it, in the big scheme of things, we have it easy.  Yes, days are long, tiring, and chock-full of new learning experiences, each built upon the last, but we are doing exactly what we set out to do: provide a loving family and home (with rules, homework, and lots of vegetables) to children.  Our children are healthy, thriving, adapting and overcoming at all turns.  At night, after everyone is tucked away in peaceful dreams, I marvel at how far we have come in just a few short weeks.  I praise God for giving us strength, courage, and wisdom and for helping us get back up when we stumble...which we do...almost daily!  

Father God, I praise you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for always knowing exactly what we need and for giving our children wisdom and courage beyond their years.  I pray that each of them seek you always and that our family live a life that is pleasing in your site.  As Psalm 19:14 states, I pray, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and redeemer."  Thank you God for giving us your son to show us the way.  We are eternally grateful.  In His holy name I pray.  Amen!  

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why We Do Not Watch TV

Over the past two months, as parents, we have spent a great deal of time reexamining some of our parental standards, beliefs, and rules. When we jumped from having two preschoolers in the house to three preschoolers and one eleven year old, an adjustment and reexamination period was inevitable.  

As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to spend a good deal of time observing: myself (as objectively as possible), our family environment, and the overall environment and society.  It is kind of like a hobby, but with a very distinct goal: to be the best mother possible while staying true to and aligned with our Christian faith.  This sounds a lot easier than it actually is because we live in a society that that is constantly bombarding us with contradictory messages.  (Take for example an article in a magazine that talks about ways to develop a positive self image in young girls.  However, the photo/advertisement on the very next page portrays a smiling, long and lean model with attributes very few young girls are born with.) 

When it comes to television, I believe those contradictions increase exponentially.  Now, all sorts of messages are being sent across the screen (via smiling actors and actresses) that contradict family values, moral standards, and the very essence of day to day life.  What you are viewing is supposed to portray happiness and fulfillment; however, you will almost inevitably walk away from the viewing feeling anything but happy or fulfilled.  Then, insert the perfectly matched commercials and you walk away not only feeling empty and unfulfilled but also with a list of products and services that will certainly help you fill that void.  Does this happen by chance?  Of course not!  The marketing geniuses know what they are doing.  Even if you do not watch commercials, the smut that fills practically all shows on television is hardly ever value added and I personally believe is almost always as odds with how Jesus would want me to spending my time.  I do not wish to be passively fed when Jesus was THE model of active living. 

With all that being said, I do believe film has a place in the sphere of entertainment options.  However, it is just one of many options and even after being tested by our eleven year old (who was almost certainly told that America is the land of endless TV and cake), we are taking the hard and firm when it comes to television viewing.  In our home, we allow no more than one hour of television, video games, any other passive electronic entertainment per day for our eleven year old.  (The preschoolers are only allowed thirty minutes.) Some days, we allow none at all.  Neither my husband or I have watched television in many years and it is not something we miss or even consider as an option for our time together.  It may sound strange, but I believe it makes us happier with ourselves, our marriage, our family, and our relationship with God.  

On a final note, I have witnessed the beauty of boring our kids into being creative and am a huge proponent!  People always say that box is a bigger hit than the toy in it, but do they really believe it?  I do and I believe that if there was not so many contradictory messages being fed through the various media outlets, it would be easier to see, hear, and feel the truth.  
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